Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Cultural Life of Mambilla Dwellers

By Al-Amin Ciroma

Published in LEADERSHIP, February, 07, 09

Standing, at its peak, at over 1,850 metres above sea level, Mambilla Plateau is one of the highest plateaus in Nigeria. Situated in Sardauna local government area of Taraba State, the weather is conducive for tourists and travellers, who constantly avail themselves of the delights Mambilla offers.
Life in Mambilla is said to be synonymous with that of the inhabitants of the Fantasy Island in Germany . The dwellers, who are predominantly Fulani, enjoy the panoramic display of the highland formation that extends farther than one's eyes can capture. The rich cultural life of the Mambilla Fulani is highly enchanting. In Nguroje and Gembu for instance, majority of the Fulani nomads have very lush pasture for their cattle that gives them rich milk, butter and cheese production.
The beautiful landscape of the Mambilla Plateau, green vegetation and scenic beauty charms and enchants reminds one of the biblical Garden of Eden. Experts' view of the beauty of the environment, most especially the Fulani, shows that although the clan is one of the most fascinating races of humanity, their beauty on the plateau tends to exceed others. The temperate nature of the Plateau, plus its numerous pockets of waterfalls gives them much healthier skin and glowing looks.
Apart from the pressure of the ‘big names’ taking up large plots of land on the Mambilla Plateau, the herds on the plateau are increasing, especially during dry season when the low lands have no grass and vegetation. This has also generated tension and conflict, which resulted in in the clashes of 2001 and 2002, which witnessed the exodus of Fulani herdsmen into the Cameroon as refugees.
Another problem that is associated with the Mambilla Plateau is the lack of conducive access roads. Driving up the plateau is scary, because it is the highest in the country. "For it to serve as a world class haven for tourists, unbeatable in the whole of Africa, an air-strip, if not airport, as well as top class hotels need to be built there for the comfort of visiting tourists and vacationers from around the world. This place could become yet another huge foreign exchange earner for Taraba State, nay the country, if leaders are actually serious about changing the face and fortunes of the country, as well as that of people in tune with the new millennium goals," said a student.
Also, Mallam Hassan, a retired civil servant, said access roads could be provided by rehabilitating and upgrading the abandoned federal road that was constructed in the 1950s along Takum-Lissam-Kwesati-Tutuwa-Nyido-Kofai-Gatari-Bissaula and Nguroje, to link up with the Mambilla Plateau. "It will be easier and cheaper for the government to think along this line, because the area from Bissau to Mambilla has lower hills and a flat land surface which will not be difficult for constructing the road on."
Another major problem that stands in the way of Mambilla Plateau’s true tourists’ haven is the dispute between the Fulani ethnic group and the indigenous Mambilla people. Before independence, the Mambilla used to be administered by the Lamido Adamawa, who sent district heads to the place to becoming administer over the area on his behalf. This did not go down well with the natives who felt that their land was being administered by 'foreigners'.
According to some historical facts, the first two district heads of the Mambilla Plateau that were sent from Yola by the Lamido of Adamawa were Mallam Danlawan and later, Mallam Muqaddas. After them, an indigene of the place, Mallam Audu Baju was appointed district head. After his death, another Fulani fellow, Mallam Mohammed Mansur, became district head, and when he died in 2000, the Mambillas vowed that no ‘foreigner’ would be their chief again. “This partly contributed to the crisis that rocked the area," said Jibrin, who worked on the Mambilla Plateau as a civil servant in 1990s.
Although the Fulani camp claims that there have always been seven Ardos (village heads) for the Fulanis and eight Jauros (village heads) for Mambilla who serve as kingmakers to form the electoral college through which the chief of Mambilla is chosen, the Mambilla people say there have always been 25 Jauros who chose their chief and that at no time was there ‘mixed grill’ of Ardos and Jauros serving as kingmakers, and that the appointment of the previous Fulani chiefs of Mambilla was an aberration.
They said Ndoti Zubairu, a Mambilla indigene, who has been acting as chief of Mambilla, should be confirmed and a gazette should be made that only the Mambilla should produce the chief of Gembu. But the Fulanis insisted that since historically, they had ascended the throne of the chief of Gembu, the new gazette to be produced should make it mandatory that there should be two ruling families in Gembu; that is, after Ndoti Zubairu, the Fulanis will produce the next chief of Gembu.
Now, the governor is saddled with the problem of sorting this out as well as that of Takum, whose last chief died in 1996 and which has caused conflict between the and Kutebs and the Chambas. However, a village head in Wukari also shared his opinion with our reporter. "The only safe, albeit difficult path route for the governor to tread in the chieftaincy dispute in Takum and Gembu is to refer to the history of succession in these areas. Let the governor close his ears to all threats and follow the history of succession to appoint chiefs in the areas. The dispute as to who or which group should produce the chiefs was settled a long time ago by the colonial government and handed over to us.
“Creating new laws or getting court decisions to accommodate new interests, or old ones that were not successful at the time the white men decided to gazette ruling families in Northern Nigeria, will be very, very dangerous, because that will mean other groups or people who lay claims on thrones elsewhere will now have a leverage to open agitations for a new gazette that will include them in the traditional rulership of their places.
“If allowed, the trend would engender endless bloodshed, which is unnecessary. The governor was not there when the history was being written, so let him follow history and leave the rest to posterity. This is my advice, but please, don't mention my name, because that will expose me to danger," he said.
In all, it is clear that Nigeria stands a better chance to utilise Mambilla as one of its tourist centres that may generate lasting revenue and boost our economy.

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